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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Podcast: Gabe Kapler buys sabermetrics

Jeez…ya think BPro would have sprung for the $19.50.

My FOX Sports Team Report podcast chat with former MLB player and now FS1 MLB analyst, Gabe Kapler, was a conversation I’ve craved for years.  The evolution of sabermetrics has gained such steam and support over the last decade, I wanted a player’s opinions on whether or not those advanced metrics:

A) Should be embraced by the casual fan, are they and, if so, how?
B) Should be embraced by active players, are they and, if so, how?

In an easy-to-digest manner, Kapler laid out his reasons for diving head first and buying into baseball’s sabermetric advantages.

“I’m an absolute nerd when it comes to sabermetrics,” Kapler said.  “I think sabermetrics are the ideal way to evaluate performance and to predict future success.”

The MLB veteran of 12 seasons went on to claim the everyday stats we consume in box scores and lists of league leaders are becoming more and more archaic.

“You will never hear me quote the number of wins a guy gets or you’ll never hear me talk about saves.  I think those statistics are meaningless as it relates to how good players are.”

Repoz Posted: February 11, 2014 at 09:28 AM | 22 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics

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   1. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 11, 2014 at 09:41 AM (#4654702)
Billy Beane should have never sold those sabermetrics.
   2. Non-Youkilidian Geometry Posted: February 11, 2014 at 09:46 AM (#4654704)
Is he going to issue licences so the rest of us can still use it?
   3. JE (Jason) Posted: February 11, 2014 at 10:03 AM (#4654717)
Pete Rose says sabermetrics is worse than gambling.
   4. Dan Lee is some pumkins Posted: February 11, 2014 at 10:09 AM (#4654721)
Bearded Wizard says "Behold! Sabermetrics!"
   5. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: February 11, 2014 at 10:19 AM (#4654726)
Is Gabe Kapler the smallest idiot ever?
   6. Golfing Great Mitch Cumstein Posted: February 11, 2014 at 03:15 PM (#4654999)
About the casual fan thing, I have a couple of questions/thoughts. First, how can casual fans be introduced to advanced sabermetrics when there has been no agreement on what stats are authoritative? Aren't there a few fielding independent pitcher stats and various ways to calculate WAR? Second, the all encompassing stats lack any color and do not describe a player's performance beyond a single rating of value. OBP and SLG are much more interesting to a casual fan as it describes the batter much better even if giving a more imprecise value. Maybe this has already been hashed out here.
   7. Greg K Posted: February 11, 2014 at 04:37 PM (#4655069)
OBP and SLG are much more interesting to a casual fan as it describes the batter much better even if giving a more imprecise value. Maybe this has already been hashed out here.

I'd say OBP and SLG are sabermetric stats. Or has the "movement" become so pervasive that those are standard stats these days?

Depending on how much these casual fans want to invest in baseball stats I'd say a good way to start would be to describe the theory behind WAR. Not so much the nuts and bolts, but just the idea that everything a player does can be reduced to a common unit (runs, or via them wins). I think people love the "little things" aspect of evaluating baseball players so you push WAR as an attempt to quantify all those things. Then be clear about how certain aspects of the game - rating players defensively, and determining how to divide responsibility between pitchers and fielders - are still marked by a certain degree of uncertainty. It's really more about discussion than giving some authoritative answer.

Though I guess I'm really just pointing out what I find interesting about sabermetrics, rather than what the casual fan would.
   8. toratoratora Posted: February 11, 2014 at 04:44 PM (#4655078)
In Russia,the sabermetrics, they buy you
   9. Knock on any Iorg Posted: February 11, 2014 at 05:19 PM (#4655111)
I thought this meant Kapler bought the domain name "sabermetrics.com" so you can imagine my disappointment.
   10. billyshears Posted: February 11, 2014 at 05:27 PM (#4655118)
Sabermetrics is a trap.
   11. Walt Davis Posted: February 11, 2014 at 06:52 PM (#4655159)
I hope he didn't give them a long-term contract. Lock into 2013 WAR and next thing you know the formula changes and you're stuck with the saber equivalent of Prince Fielder.

#6 -- hard to say. I would guess casual fans relate better to counting stats and leader boards. As to WAR, I don't think it's hard to sell the casual fan on the idea that players contribute with the bat, on the bases and in the field and that WAR helps us to identify the good all-around players not just the best hitters. But if they prefer components broken down*, then give them that info in three pieces. (Pitching WAR is harder to explain ... but then I don't use pitcher WAR all that often myself.)

*I don't think fans do like component stats. Most humans have a good bit of trouble synthesizing multiple measures and prefer a single composite measure. Something like WAR is useful and should be popular with the casual fan for just that reason -- similar to QB rating, BCS rankings, etc. In fact they tend to have so much preference for composite measures that they will often combine components in ways that don't make sense -- e.g. the old Elias free agent rankings. What they won't necessarily like is the number itself as that doesn't necessarily have a concrete meaning to them but will generally respond well to rankings.
   12. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: February 11, 2014 at 07:25 PM (#4655175)
Billy Beane should have never sold those sabermetrics.


Soriano is upset that those sabermetrics are no longer available.
   13. ptodd Posted: February 12, 2014 at 02:40 AM (#4655298)
Some fans just like real numbers. Most of the sabermetric stats could best be called estimators with very crude adjustments (park, league, era) and assumptions (run coefficients independent of team run environment and batting order position) and the defensive stats have a pretty large subjective component (interns judging batted ball type and how hard a ball is hit) and ignore defensive positioning. Then you have WAR being calculated in a zillion ways, changing on an annual basis it seems, and and using 1 yr fielding stats despite MGL saying 1 yr UZR should be regressed 50%

Say what you will about BA, OBP, SLG, HR, RBI, FP%, ERA, etc they are based on real numbers. Real of course being defined as numbers derived from the actual game events. Real is not anymore useful if they are misused. RBI's for example can be useful if adjusted for opportunity. Saber stats of course use many of the real numbers before feeding them into their grinder which spits out all kinds of acronyms in numbers that tests the limits of the roman alphabet and tempts some to use the greek alphabet

I happen to like both the archaic and saber stats (some anyways). One of the things that irks me most when when so called sophisticated fans don't understand the limitations of the stats they are using. Part of that is the fault of the saber community for not discussing the uncertainty and wide error bands in their stats so as not to break the illusion that they are more accurate than they are, but not always. Fan Graphs has a section discussing some of the limitations for WAR

How often have you seen someone claim a player is more valuable than another becomes he has a WAR that's 10% higher? End of discussion, the number rules. Do they not realize that WAR is context neutral and park adjusted that that the error bands are likely far larger than 10%. Maybe if they added a players clutch score to WAR and regressed the defensive component of WAR 50% it might be a bit more useful.

Many times the park factors are the same for a RH FB hitter and a LH singles hitter. Which is absurd since parks can be great or terrible for the former and neutral for the latter. This is a case where the adjusted stat is actually worse than the unadjusted stat.
   14. boteman Posted: February 12, 2014 at 02:55 AM (#4655300)
In engineering school we are taught to express measurements ("real" numbers) with tolerance or error figures accompanying them, otherwise it is not considered a complete, useful result. Is this not the norm in statistical endeavors? I would hope so.

Oh, and ERA often depends on the whims of the official scorer, so how real that number is for any given pitcher is open to question.
   15. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: February 12, 2014 at 03:15 AM (#4655302)
Oh, and ERA often depends on the whims of the official scorer, so how real that number is for any given pitcher is open to question.


I think RA and RA+ are better measurements, I think the idea that the official scorer is having this tremendous effect on the numbers is one common theme on BTF that needs to die.

The overwhelming majority of runs are earned, and most of the errors that are handed out are pretty straightforward and inarguable.

In the vast majority of cases, the official scorer really doesn't do much to move anyone's numbers either way. He really needs to stop being trotted out as some statistical boogeyman.


   16. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: February 12, 2014 at 07:38 AM (#4655316)
Something like WAR is useful and should be popular with the casual fan for just that reason -- similar to QB rating, BCS rankings, etc.

When I think of the BCS rankings, the first description that comes to mind is not "popular with the casual fan."
   17. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: February 12, 2014 at 09:28 AM (#4655353)

When I think of the BCS rankings, the first description that comes to mind is not "popular with the casual fan."


Yeah, but that's just because MY team isn't ranked higher.
   18. Super Creepy Derek Lowe (GGC) Posted: February 12, 2014 at 10:33 AM (#4655418)
I think my favorite sabe stat of all time may still be Estimated Runs Produced. It is similar to Batting Runs but with a baseline of 0, so you can easily compare it to raw numbers like runs scored or RBI. No one, AFAICT, uses RBIAA or RBIAR.
   19. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: February 12, 2014 at 10:57 AM (#4655435)
The overwhelming majority of runs are earned, and most of the errors that are handed out are pretty straightforward and inarguable.

Of course, half the problem are the errors not handed out.

No one, AFAICT, uses RBIAA or RBIAR.

Is that a good thing? RBIAA (i.e. adjusted for opportunity, then scored against how many RBI you would expect on average) is infinitely more useful and telling than RBI. I mean still not very useful, but at least not complete garbage.

How often have you seen someone claim a player is more valuable than another becomes he has a WAR that's 10% higher? End of discussion, the number rules.

Here? Not very often. I am sure you can find examples on the net, where somebody went "2.2 > 2.0 qed". But pretty much everyone here accepts that anything less than a difference of 1 WAR is withing the margin for error, and debatable. And you will frequently see disputes here over differences larger than that.

This really one of those strawmen, I have no clue how or why they got made in the first place. I very, very rarely see it, even away from here, and when I do, it gets immediately shouted down.
   20. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: February 12, 2014 at 11:04 AM (#4655443)
Of course, half the problem are the errors not handed out.


I would agree. However, nothing I've seen suggests there's anything whimsical about the process, rather than scorekeepers being too frugal about calling plays errors. IOW, there aren't enough errors being called, but it's an across-the-board issue, rather than a selective one.

Additionally, if too few errors are being called, it really can't have much of an effect on the overall numbers. UER just become a smaller portion of the overall sample.

   21. theboyqueen Posted: February 12, 2014 at 01:04 PM (#4655575)
But pretty much everyone here accepts that anything less than a difference of 1 WAR is withing the margin for error, and debatable


What is the margin for error with WAR? Without a confidence interval, how can anyone know the validity of any argument based on it?

"Wins above replacement" is a claim, not a statistic.
   22. PepTech Posted: February 12, 2014 at 01:29 PM (#4655604)
As a fairly well known poker player, I'm surprised anyone is surprised that Kaplan crunches the numbers. Most of the better ones have an innate sense of value, an understanding of how distinct events are independent, and...

What? Kapler? Never mind.

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